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Dashing Through the Snow: Supply Chains in Winter Weather

For many companies, winter means that the holidays are approaching. And while companies prepare for the increase in demand during the holiday season, it's equally important the companies prepare for the bad weather that inevitably comes during the winter season.

How Winter Impacts Supply Chains

Winter weather takes its toll on nearly every supply chain, from ground freight to rail, to air. And since supply chains are highly interconnected networks, a delay in one segment leads to delays in every subsequent segment. Snow alone can be enough to delay delivery, but the combination of snow, high winds, ice, and freezing temperatures that frequently accompany winter storms can cause a supply chain to stop in its tracks.

What do we do about winter?

First, don't panic. Winter comes every year and the weather in your region is likely relatively consistent from year to year. This makes it easy to put a general plan in place to deal with your typical winter season.

It's important to be proactive when getting ready for winter. Regular maintenance and upkeep on your fleet vehicles and warehouse space will ensure that they perform properly when the cold weather hits. It will also help to prevent avoidable breakdowns of vehicles, which become difficult to handle in deep or blowing snow.

The next step is to know the requirements of your products. Lots of items can be transported without temperature-regulated trucks, but many cannot. If your product is temperature sensitive, or simply cannot freeze, you need to consider how you are going to maintain a warmer temperature inside your truck when the weather gets cold. This can be done in a variety of ways, find what works best for your business and your product.

Create a plan for winter roads too. In many regions, especially the further north you go, winter snowfalls can mean closed or inaccessible roads. If this is common in your area, you will need to have a plan in mind to manage this. This could mean utilizing an alternate route, a different vehicle, or informing customers to expect delays. Whatever you plan involves, make sure everyone on the team is aware of it. This way, customer service will remain top notch.

What about atypical winters?

We've all seen a winter that we weren't expecting. Whether it's unseasonal cold or an unexpected winter storm, the weather can be unpredictable at times. It can be difficult, if not nearly impossible, to plan for the unexpected aspects of winter. In these cases, it's important to be flexible in your winter plan. Accept delays when they happen, and ensure that safety is your number one priority. When delivery is unsafe, it must be put on hold until it can be completed. Customers will generally understand when deliveries are delayed in severe weather, as long as you communicate with them regarding the delay.

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